Yesterday, The Weinstein Company’s film “Fruitvale Station,” hit theaters in limited release. usedview.com had the opportunity to sit down with the cast. Check out highlights from our roundtable interviews with the film’s stars Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz and Director Ryan Coogler.
Speak about collaborating with Director Ryan Coogler.
Michael: Me and him, we collaborated on a lot, you know? A lot of it was thought out. It had to be in a way because we had such a small amount of time to shoot things…But he did allow a lot of times for things to organically happen. That’s when we found little magic moments, things that aren’t exactly on the page, but are in between the lines. And I think that’s really important, so we did have those moments, too.
How were you able to channel Oscar Grant?
Michael: I tried to dissolve myself as much as I could, but acting for me sometimes is taking whatever personal experiences I have and try to apply that. That’s what makes him relatable, that’s what the realness kind of comes from, where it applies. I feel like you have to pull from some personal experiences. At least that’s how I work sometimes. It’s just easier that way. And I try it as best as I can and kind of dissolve myself and become him, not me, or just blur the lines.
Can you speak about why this film is personal to you?
Michael: As far as personal experiences, I’m a young black male from north New Jersey. I’ve had my run-ins with the cops. Me and my friends have been harassed, pulled over way too many times, handcuffed, left on the side of the road, had my car towed, told my driver’s license was suspended when it wasn’t, had to walk home… I mean, you get pulled over 15 times in the course of two summers, it sits with you after a while. So you pull from those experiences too and kind of like that outlook on authority, and cops. That isn’t a white-black thing. I think it’s a cop thing. Oscar Grant could have been anybody, any color, any race.
Do you think the incident with Oscar Grant sparked any change?
Michael: I don’t think there have been any changes whatsoever. And hopefully a film like this will spark conversation for us, the way we treat one another and our value of life. It’s like it doesn’t matter who’s on the side of the trigger. You see what’s happening in Chicago right now? The summer has been crazy. The loss of life, the rapid loss of life in Chicago is appalling. It’s unheard of right now. I mean people are dying like four or five a day or something like that. But where is the gun control in Chicago? Because it’s black on black or whatever so like people don’t care as much.
Is there any talk in Oscar’s family about what could have been if he were still alive?
Melonie: Well in terms of Sophina and Oscar they were at this point where they really wanted to do right by each other and kind of move out of the neighborhood and put their daughter into a private school and get married, he was going to be really faithful, it’s crazy to hear her talk about it. It was like this crossroad where it could have been great and you can’t make this up, so that’s what even makes it more devastating in terms of his death and what could have been.
What was the most challenging scene for you to shoot?
Melonie: It had to be the last 20 minutes of the movie….Where he’s upstairs and you don’t know if he’s okay.
Michael: Physically probably just getting operated on. People overlook that so much, but to lay there on that thing for hours, with tubes in your mouth and all types of things hooked up. Just not even taking it off. Just laying there and just having people poking and dry blood, that’s not fun at all. And then being in the morgue on that slab, knowing one day it’s inevitable. In a real morgue, there were bodies right behind me. That was weird. But it probably had to be the bar stuff when he was shot, the fact that we had only four hours to get it with one camera. It was just not being able to have a lot of takes and having to get into the emotional and mental…going through so many different emotions in a short amount of time.
Can you speak about the scene with the dog getting killed in the street?
Ryan Coogler: So, that scene tends to be a polarizing scene. For some people, they hate the scene. For some people, it’s their favorite scene in the movie. And for me as a filmmaker and also for Michael, the actor, the scene is very important. And it wasn’t a scene about showing that Oscar’s a good guy, it wasn’t a scene about showing this is a guy that loves animals. It wasn’t about that. It was very much two things. It was symbolic. I found that Oscar’s favorite animal was a pitbull. Well, he wanted a pitbull. Well, he would tell Sophina, “I’m going to move to a house. I’ll get a backyard so I can get a dog.” It’s kind of like an American Dream type thing that he had. He always lived in apartments, could never have a dog. Young African-American males in urban areas are attracted to pitbulls…You hear about pitbulls in the media and it’s about pitbulls mauling somebody or attacking somebody. You talk to pitbull owners and they’ll tell you they have the sweetest dog in the world, but there’s that perception of them that’s out there of being these awful creatures. And oftentimes pitbulls die in the street. That’s a dog you see dead in the street the most often…And Oscar was very much a person who put up a poker face around everybody that he was around. He was always just trying to keep people happy, always trying to be cool and tough and collected, no matter what he was going through, and you could see that in the other scenes. But that was a moment where the stuff he was dealing with kind of broke and I think everybody’s had those moments where you’re dealing with certain things, something might come put you up over. And he was by himself, so he broke at that moment. And where the inspiration for the scene came from was I have a little brother who’s a very bubbly person, very outward. He’ll come in right now and make everybody laugh and light the room up and stuff, but he’s also a person who keeps a lot of stuff inside. That character type exists. And one day he came home really bummed out. I could tell something was wrong with him. So I asked him what was up and he told me that he’d seen a dog at a gas station, get hit by a car. And he pulled over, and the dog died right there in front of him. And so, when he told me that, it made me think about Oscar and made me think about all the young black males that die in the street, and people just keep moving. So, I started seeing that in the script.
Can you speak about working with Chad Michael Murray on channeling the officer?
Ryan Coogler: We talked about it quite a bit, because Chad is a hell of a guy, a really, really nice person. He was concerned about playing this role. And we talked. He was concerned about his choices that he would make, why he was doing the scene, and we talked through a lot of it. And he’s incredible and Kevin Durand, who played the other officer. And we’re really proud of his performance and his bravery for playing him, playing that role.
What’s next for you?
Michael: Reading a lot of scripts, trying to figure out what’s next. I’m not really sure. I got a romantic comedy coming out on January 31st, “Are We Officially Dating?” with Miles Teller, Zac Efron, so lighter. I had to do something light like after this. I just want to switch it up a little bit, kind of show some diversity.
usedview.com was on the scene as the cast celebrated the New York premiere of the film on Monday evening at the MoMA. It was presented by Ciroc and BET Films and the fabulous after-party was held at the Top of the Standard.